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72                                                                                                          B. POLEVOI

in his sleeve with some scorched utensil to make it feel
homelike— began to chirp, Alexei thought lie heard some-
body on the other bunk crying softly and trying to deaden
the sounds by biting the pillow,

18

On the morning of the third day that Alexei had been
staying with Grandad Mikhail, the old man said to him
in an emphatic tone:

"You are lousy, Alexei, that's what! Lice are worse
than dung beetles. And it's hard for you to scratch your-
self. I'll tell you what 111 do? I'll give you a bath. What
do you say to that? A steam bath. That will be fine! I'll
wash you down and steam your bones a bit. It will do you
good after what you've gone through. What do you
say? Am I right?"

And he set about arranging the bath. He made the fire
on the hearth in the corner so hot that the hearthstones
cracked loudly. Outside the dugout another big fire was
m, and, as Alexei was told, a large stone was heated.
varya filled an old wooden tub with water. Golden

SraT TaS -laid out on .the floor' After that Grandad
Mikhail, stripped to the waist, remaining only in his under-
wear, quickly dissolved some alkali in a small wooden
Docket and stripped a piece of bast matting to make a
oath sponge. When the dugout grew so hot that cold drops
ol water began to fall heavily from the ceiling, the old
man humed out and soon returned with the red-hot stone
on i a piece of sheet iron. He dropped the stone into the
™Lf A/re?f clo?d tof steam shot up to the ceiling, spread
out under it and then broke up into a curly fleece. Noth-
mg could be seen through the mist, but Alexei felt that
was being undressed by the deft hands of the old

Varya assisted her father-in-law. Owing to the heat

-^r Padded coat and kerchief. Her heavy
existence of which could scarcely have been
Sr her tattered kerchief,  fell loose  down
andt8J«HttIy,  slim,   large-eyed   and light-

transformation was so unexpected that